Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Yep, this entire post is about showering. I often get the question of, what does your everyday life look like there, and well, showering is something I do every day, so I thought that I'd write about it. Plus, today was a monumental day in my showering routine. Why?

I took a hot shower for the first time in almost 2 months! For the first few weeks I was staying at a home that had a hot water heater, but did I use it? Of course not! I was still adjusting to the 90 degree heat. In fact, it was so warm one day that I decided to shower mi-afternoon to cool myself down. I turned on only the cold tap, but the water was lukewarm from being in the pipes and didn't cool me down at all. I came out of the shower cleaner, but non any cooler. Once I moved into the place I'm at now I was getting used to the temperatures, and it was getting a bit cooler outside. Unfortunately, the water doesn't warm up in the pipes here like it did at the house, so I was taking cold showers for awhile.

But then it really started cooling down, so I started taking bucket showers. I mastered the mixture of almost boiling water and cold water to get the perfect amount of water to wash with. Bucket showers still just aren't the same though, and I never feel like I'm actually clean after one (but don't worry, I am!). So, I was elated and couldn't wait to take a shower when I found out the water heater had been fixed!

On the note of showers, have you ever wondered why they make it so that the water comes out at an angle instead of just straight down like rain? I wonder no longer! At the place I'm staying the pipe comes out to the center of the shower stall and then the shower head comes straight down, meaning that the water just falls straight down. I think it's because there might not be enough water pressure to push it out at an angle, but I never realized how much someone was thinking when they decided to make the water angle out like it does! All the water just ends up landing on my head and soaking into my hair if I stand underneath it, so I kind of end up doing the hokey-pokey in order to get clean. If you still are wondering why it's so hard, try to take a shower outside next time it rains, and let me know how it goes!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Eye of the Beholder

Today I was just struck by the beauty of the world that we live in.  I mean, take a minute to look outside. It might be brown, green, or white, depending on where you're at, but isn't it beautiful? Here's a few pictures of the landscape I was looking at when I started thinking this.

Now, maybe you're thinking, "Is she crazy? Has just 2 months in Africa made her forget what is really beautiful, like the mountains in Colorado?" I know that these pictures show mostly sand and if you look closely you'll see all the trash too. But the trees in the first one are quite nice, and look at the gorgeous blue sky in the second one. The sky is always blue like that around here, in fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a cloud since I was on the plane ride here. And as much as all that sand bothers me when it gets everything dirty, I have begun to see it as beautiful. I still miss scenes like this sometimes:

"My" mountains at sunrise
This is captivating. Well, maybe not the picture itself, but if you've ever seen the sun rise on the Rocky Mountains you can understand the full glory of what this one snapshot reveals. But I don't think that God, while making Earth, said, 'Let's put all the pretty stuff here, here, and here. And whoops! I didn't leave anything for Kansas or the Sahara, guess they'll just be kind of plain.' He made the whole world beautiful.

I'm in awe of the fact that when I just take the time to look for the beauty surrounding me, I find it. Maybe it's because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you have to be ready to behold beauty it to see it. So look around you, and stand in awe of the One who made the earth beautiful. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas this year was a completely new experience for me. It was really hard to be away from my family, but it was also a great day. It started out with me waking up at 6 o'clock, partially because the call to prayer has been waking me up in the morning and partially because I always wake up early on Christmas. (I blame this on the fact that my youngest sister is 8 years younger than me so I've always been around a kid who is excited to wake up on Christmas morning and I never had to grow out of that stage!) I'm not even sure what my excitement was about this year. There wasn't anything that I was desperately hoping was under the tree, in fact, I wasn't even really expecting any gifts, but I was just excited for the day based on ritual, I guess! It was still dark out, and I was pretty sure that when my friend told me to come over "whenever" in the morning that she didn't mean 6am before any of them were up! So, I decided to finish slicing the potatoes I was making for dinner. This was the first year that I was fully in charge of a dish for the Christmas meal- thus began my Christmas feeling like an adult. However, that feeling fell to the floor with my Christmas tree when I knocked it off the coffee table, whoops! Maybe I am still part kid!

When it was finally a decent time, I went over to spend the morning with my surrogate family. And really, not much can beat spending Christmas with a three year old. Especially this little boy.

H was so excited to open his presents, and after each item he would ask, "Can we open it and play with it?"  He probably would have been just as happy with one present that he could have played with immediately!

Little N, who is almost 1, was just her cute self and was much more into her bottle that the presents around her!

The day seemed to last such a long time. In fact, Christmas day almost always feels like the longest day of the year to me, which of course is a wonderful thing! I'm glad that didn't change as I've grown into an adult :) Later on, I went to complete my potatoes and put them in the oven and popped over to the store to buy a drink for the evening. Yep, the stores were all open here! It was kind of a holiday, but most things were business as usual. Most who even celebrate Christmas celebrate the Coptic Christmas on January 7th. Waiting for the potatoes to finish, another family came over to exchange gifts. I think it's a sign of growing up when you are super excited about getting an oven mitt and sharp knife for Christmas like I was!

We then headed to a get together with more friends where we had an amazing dinner (my favorite dish was probably the broccoli salad!) and wonderful time with friends.

And as I sit here reflecting on the last few days and eating my cornflakes (a Christmas present!) I realize that although most of the things I did had adult job descriptions that I still saw a lot of it through child-like eyes, and I hope that I can continue to live life like that, because, as Jesus said, we must be like children in order to enter His Kingdom.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Believe in the American Dream

There is an English school not too far from where I live. Twice a week the students have a club where they can go and speak about different topics in English. Most of these students are around my age and I have started going to get to know some locals who I can actually speak to (I hope that my Arabic will improve, but so far I can only have a very short conversation with most people I come in contact with.). I'm the only native English speaker there and they are thrilled that I have started coming. They have a variety of topics that they talk about and I love hearing their perspective and they love to hear about America, or what I, as an American, think about things. These meetings always get me thinking critically, and today was no exception.

I used to think that I wanted no part in the American dream. I'm quite content with not being rich, or even necessarily well-off. My joy in life comes from knowing Jesus, not from having the perfect things, being in a great position in my job, or even being a good person with good friends. These are all things that, for the most part, I could care less about. They will never be my goal in life. But today my eyes were opened in a new way to what the foundation of that "American Dream" is, and how much it is a part of me.

One guy at the club is quite vocal about how he dislikes his country and really wants to be American. Today it came up that many of these young people really have no hope for their country. Most of them want to get out so that they can have better lives for themselves. They say that nothing will really change because there are so many problems and that no one will ever come around to fix them. This sits in direct juxtaposition with how proud they are of their country and how they think it can be the greatest country in the world. Now, I started thinking about what I thought about America. Do I love it? Absolutely! I did not move away because I was disgruntled. Am I always happy with the way things work there? No. The government has it's ups and downs, and sometimes I can be quite upset with it and even the citizens as a whole. I think that most Americans have the same view point. So what is the difference in thinking between me and them? It's the American Dream that I have. Not the American Dream that I can have a nice house with a car and 2.3 children, but the American Dream that I can impact my world.

A common colloquialism going around currently is "Be the change you want to see in the world." It something I tend to live by. If I don't like something that is going on, I must be the one to influence it and change it. I can't wait around for someone else to do it. The people here agreed with that last part, that they can't really trust anyone else to change things. But they don't believe that they can be that change. It's really sad. These are definitely the people that have some of the highest education in their generation here and they are the ones who could lead their country, but they don't believe that it's possible. They don't think that they could be the one to start turning their country into what they want it to be. Maybe it's because they don't have examples, and, granted, their government does not work like ours and has more problems and they have different circumstances and obstacles to overcome. It shocked me though, that none of them even seem willing to try. They don't believe that they could change anything for the country and so they'll work towards leaving it, obtaining a better life for themselves, and leave the country they are proud to be citizens of to its own demise.

I never realized how American my thinking was until tonight. I wish I could make them see that they hold the key to their country's success in their hands if they are willing to fight to find where to use it. But it's just not their way of thinking. Instead, I will work at being the change I want to see and hope that maybe they will begin to work for the future of their country in their own way. I will hold tightly to the American Dream that I can change do anything I want and change my world.

Well, if you made it the end of this post, I'm impressed! I realize that it was an essay, or maybe just rambling thoughts. My next post will be lighter and more fun, I promise!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Month

I can't believe that I have been here for a month. It seems like just yesterday that I was on a plane, but it also feels like this has been home for a while now. I've figured out (for the most part) how things work around here and feel used to it.

There are definitely some things that have started to feel normal, that just aren't part of everyday life in Loveland, like:

1. Shaking hands when you greet someone. My hand just starts to come out now!
2. Drinking Nescafe. Don't judge me, but I actually like the stuff and drink it regularly. The plus side is that I enjoy real coffee ten times more when I get to have it (which was twice today, thanks Suz!)
3. Covering my head when I go outside. Not only is this a cultural thing, but I find that it keeps the sun off my neck and keeps my hair from collecting so much dust.
4. Sleeping under a mosquito net. It kind of makes me feel like I have a princess bed :)
5. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables all the time.
6. Getting fresh bread from the bakery- goodbye preservative-filled sliced stuff!
7. Car horns constantly honking.
8. Hearing and speaking a different language.
9. Being the only white person in the store, on the bus, in the market, etc. and getting asked where I am from.
10. Okay, this isn't something that feels normal, but I often have these ads pop up:
Um, no thank you, I'm a US citizen, plus, is this even legitimate? It makes me laugh every time!
11. Not throwing the toilet paper in the toilet.

I'm sure I could go on, but I have to leave things for later posts!

Overall, this month has been filled with a lot of new things, and I can't wait to see what the next 5 bring!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful!

Yep, the weather outside is frightful! Or, maybe more like was frightful. And not really frightful at all. It was actually quite nice. But I say that because today I was cold! In fact, I don't think I've sweated at all today. This might be a first in the month I've lived in Africa. On my walk to the bus this morning I was thankful to have a headscarf to keep my ears warm, and in class I was even more thankful for it as I wrapped it around my shoulders to put another layer around my arms. I might have even had goosebumps.

I could go on about this big event in my life, but I know that most of you reading this are thinking that either 1) you are cold every time you outside this time of year and know what it feels like to be cold or 2) you are rejoicing because you are getting 'nice' 60 degree weather.

Just for the record, it was about 68*F this morning when I was freezing. Yep, I'm freezing at the same temperature you heat your house to!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stopping to Smell the Roses

Each day I seem to run into something completely unexpected. Everything in Africa seems backwards here right now and I want to be able to enjoy the strangeness of it all. I've been attempting to be better about pulling out my camera when something unexpected comes along to capture these random memories. Here's the fruit of today's attempt.

It wasn't supposed to take so long to get to school today because I was getting a ride instead of being on a bus that stops every mile to pick people up and let them off. That was just wishful thinking.

Here's what slowed us down:

Yep, this guy is pushing his car.

He is pushing his car across the bridge.

As you can see, the bridge is quite narrow.

And this bridge is decently long too, especially when you're going at a walking pace.

We were behind him when all of a sudden he started slowing down. WAY down. He knew he had run out of gas, because he instantly got out and started pushing. "You have got to be kidding me" I thought. We couldn't have been more than a quater of the way across the bridge. I've got to hand it to him though, he kept a pretty decent speed. It was just too bad that the traffic on the other side was constant and that we couldn't get around him. That is, the traffic was bad until we were almost to the end of the bridge and the road widened out anyways!

So much for getting to school quickly. Oh well, nothing around here happens quickly anyways, so I'll just to continue to stop and smell the roses of the random things that happen here!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You Know You're From Colorado When...

I am severely directionally challenged. I'll admit, sometimes I have to look at my hands to see which one makes an "L" to distinguish my right from my left. And to add to this, I lack an internal compass. I mean, I grew up in Colorado, where, the mountains are always to the West. All my directions revolve around where the mountains are. Consequently, I have no sense of direction outside of Colorado and can get lost easily. There are several times that I've been quite confused about where I'm at. On one of my first days here I was in the car and my friend asked me, "Do you know where we are right now?" I looked around and said, "Nope, no idea."

We were not even 50 yards away from where I was staying. Wow. The building was just behind some trees. I've gotten a little better at knowing my way around now, but there are times when I have no idea of which direction home is. But don't worry, I've found a way to tell my directions that is almost as good as the mountains! Wait for prayer time. During the call to prayer (which happens 5 times a day around here) people are lined up along the sidewalks kneeling and praying towards Mecca, which I know is East from here. I am hoping that this will keep me from ending up completely lost here!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oh So Familiar

There are times when I forget that I'm in Africa. They don't come often, especially because I'm outside a lot and almost constantly hot. So this afternoon was completely refreshing. I spent two hours doing something that is a constant in my life in the States. It's something that I have, at times dreaded, but today I was excited because it's something that is so natural to me. What was this thing that made me feel so at home?

Babysitting, of course! And although we were halfway across the globe, everything that happened was exactly what would have happened at any young family's home. The kids woke up from their naps, the three year old was a bit upset that his mother had left, but got over it quickly. I made a bottle and some food to feed the baby. She didn't want to wear her bib and spent a lot of energy trying to feed herself. Her brother didn't want snack and asked to watch a movie, at which point I suggested that we play a game. I changed a dirty diaper. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea- especially if you've babysat before. There were a couple times someone came to the flat and I had to pull on a jacket to cover my shoulders before opening the gate to them, but for the most part, this afternoon was just full of the familiar.

And it was wonderful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All Things Transportation

I spend a lot of time getting from one place to another, but that's just part of life in a big city, and I don't mind it. In fact, it can be quite entertaining at times. So, I thought you might want to hear what it's like.

First of all,I must explain what driving is like here for those of you who have never been out of the US. Rules are all optional. You can turn left out of the right lane, you rarely actually stop at a stop sign, and the basic idea of driving is to get around the other cars so that you can get to where you're going. I can't even explain what they do at roundabouts. Try envisioning what it would be like if 3 year olds could operate a vehicle, but still had their normal thinking capacity. "Me first" and "I'm not going to follow the rules" seem to be the mindset of drivers overseas. Today the main street turned into a one-way road because there was so much traffic. That left the few cars that were swimming upstream driving on the side walks! This is all normal. When I first went overseas to Guatemala, I thought I was going to be killed, but I've gotten used to it, and amazingly, I've seen very few accidents!
I have class on the other side of town, so I walk 10 minutes to the bus station. The bus station has rows upon rows of buses waiting to be filled with people. I walk to the row where the guy is yelling the name of the route I want to take and get on. (I'm still not completely sure what he's yelling, but I know what it sounds like!) They don't have nice maps of the routes, you just have to know where you want to go and get on the bus with the guy yelling the right thing. One thing I didn't expect of Africa is that everyone would have a seat on the bus, but I was wrong. They fill every single seat. It makes the bus full, but not cramped. I've quickly learned though that there are some seats that you don't want to have to sit in.

Like the jump seats. They are little seats that fold down into the aisle. When anyone in a row behind you wants off the bus you have to stand up, fold your seat, let them by, fold it back down and sit down again. I had to sit in one of these the other day and found that the inconveniences of this seat are not the worst of it. I sat down on the last seat left and realized that is was pretty rickety. And that my feet didn't touch the ground. Add that to the fact that the roads aren't in the greatest condition and it meant I spent the whole ride just trying to not fall onto the sleeping man on my right or the man reading his newspaper on my left!

My favorite part of the bus is getting off. There are only a few actual bus stops, so they just stop when someone on the side of the road gestures them over or when a passenger wants off. How do you let them know you want off? You snap your fingers! It's great and in general how you can get someone's attention here! So, I wait to get as close to my school as possible, snap my fingers and the bus pulls off the road, almost comes to a stop and lets me off!

I know that this has been long already, but I think you'll enjoy this last story!

I was riding in an American friend's car today and we got pulled over. It's not a big deal here. In fact, they just seem to do it randomly, just to check if you have the correct papers and stuff. (You can't really do something wrong while driving here, except for talking on the phone).Oh, and let me explain how they pull you over. An officer on the street motions you over to the side of the road. That's all. Then you roll down your window and show them your papers.

Now, my friend has a theory. Don't speak to them in Arabic and they won't give you a ticket. He doesn't have a license in this country because it's nearly impossible and costs a lot of money, and he's paid a lot of tickets because of it. So, when the officer walked up my friend showed him his American driver's license. The officer insisted that he would have to pay a fee because he didn't have a license for this country. My friend asked if he could have a paper (receipt) and then kept speaking in English and asking the officer, "Do you speak English?" It worked. We got by without paying anything!

Now if only you could just say to an officer in the US, "No hablo ingles" and get by that easily!

Monday, November 29, 2010

3 Weeks Ago...

I left the US exactly 3 weeks ago. Many friends asked me, "how do you pack for 6 months?" It was difficult, and yes, I did a lot of it last minute. So for those of you wondering how I got my stuff over here, I thought I'd show you some pictures of my packing experience. And you better enjoy it, because it took me a really long time to upload them!

 This is all my stuff- books, journals, clothes, a 6 month supply of contacts and solution, and other really important things that help make being overseas a bit more like home. My clothes consisted of a little of everything- shorts and t-shirts because of the hot weather, and pants, skirts, and long sleeves because whenever I go out, I have to basically be covered from wrist to ankle. And all of this needed to be packed into two check-ons (weighing under 50lbs), a carry-on, and a purse!

 Here's a better picture- things were strewn all over the living room. Good thing this was about midnight so no one else was trying to do things in there, right? I knew packing last minute had its advantages!

A while later, almost everything has a place. Except for the coco puffs.

Are they really neccesarry? Yes.
1. Cereal is my favorite food. Nothing beats a bowl of this vitamin and mineral enhanced sugar in a bowl of milk.
2. It's not easy to find cereal of any sort in Africa, and what is here is uber expensive. (seriously-as in add a buck or two to what you pay for the largest size at King Soopers and that's what you could pay here for a little bitty tiny box!)
3. I'm counting on this to keep me from a complete breakdown when I culture shock.

So yes, I had to find a place for them, no matter what!

SUCCESS!!! The suitcase weighed 48lbs, just barely under the limit!

And here's a picture for the sake of my mom- this is how her living room normally looks when I haven't destroyed it . And, this is how I left it at about 1pm that evening- I still had 5 hours left to sleep!

And that is how you pack for 6 months. I did a good job too! The only thing that I noticed I missed was nail clippers- oh well, I think I should be able to find some here, and if not, I'm an expert nail biter anyways!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I had an epiphany about Thanksgiving this year. It is only an American holiday (well, and maybe Canadian, but it's not even on the same day). In fact, I had to explain what Thanksgiving was to my Egyptian roommate. I didn't do a very good job of that. What's Thanksgiving about again? Oh yeah, the Pilgrims and Indians- wait, no, the Native Americans and thanking God for making it through the winter. But then why do we celebrate in the fall? So much for knowing my American history- Ms. Langford must have not taught that part, or else I would have some little song or ditty to remind me about it!

Anyways, when you're overseas you feel that every white person you see comes from the same culture as you. And it's partially true. They usually speak good English, even if it's not their native tongue, celebrate Christian holidays and think it's hot here. So it seemed really strange that many of the white people that I met thought that Thursday was just a normal day and weren't going to be preparing food for a Thanksgiving meal. It makes me so thankful to be American. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas season and without it how would we know that it was time to begin decorating and having Christmas parties. Seriously, the holiday season wouldn't be half as great if it didn't start with Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving overseas was really different, but good! The day was a pretty normal day until the evening. Then we headed over to an American family's home. And here's the great thing- I didn't even know this family, or most of the people there either. But that's what happens when you're part of a small minority. Simply because you're part of the minority means you are part of the family. It's great. We had almost all the traditional food and had a wonderful time. There were a few things I missed about Thanksgiving in the states though. Like family (obviously) and watching the football and eating pie at half-time. We had pie, we were just eating it with the call to prayer in the background instead of commercials for black Friday deals chattering away. Despite it all, I had a wonderful time meeting new friends and enjoying a tradition- even if I don't quite know what we're celebrating :)